Tough times call for soft measures

by | Jun 19, 2014 | Articles

Connected Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Simon Hayward from Cirrus writes for The HR Director

Have leaders ever faced a more complex set of challenges? Markets are volatile and uncertain, there has been a widespread erosion of trust, and organisations everywhere need to become more agile to cope with the changing demands of customers and our unpredictable world.  Leaders are being forced to change, and the old style of command and control leadership just doesn’t cut it any more.  We all need to work in a more joined up way – to be more connected.

So how can leaders become more connected? We believe it is critical to communicate a clear direction, purpose and values to engage employees inside the organisation as well as customers beyond it.  Leaders can achieve this if they can lead through influence rather than control, and devolve decision-making across organisations.  This relies on effective communication and connection across the organisation based on a consistent set of assumptions.

A connected leader also needs to be an emotionally intelligent leader, able to manage his or her emotional energy and to mobilise, focus and renew the collective energy of others.

It used to be that intellectual capital was our most prized asset. And while it does still matter, another type of capital has become increasingly important – emotional capital. In the groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why it Matters More than IQ, Dr Daniel Goleman demonstrated that emotional intelligence matters more than twice as much as IQ or technical expertise in determining success at work. In his book, Emotional Capitalists, Dr Martyn Newman contends that emotional assets in the organisation determine whether or not people will work well with you, buy from you, and enter into business with you.

As a leader, the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and to recognise and empathise with the emotions of others can help build critical connections that lead to deep commitment.

Emotional capital is valuable because it creates strong relationships that enable people to become more connected, to devolve leadership, share decision making responsibility, and achieve effective collective outcomes. Emotionally intelligent leaders can create cultures of engagement to maximise productivity across organisations.

The end of the hero leader

I have carried out a lot of research into the whole area of connected leadership and identified a definite move away from the cult of the ‘hero’ leader to a new post-heroic culture which is more in line with society’s emphasis on values, democracy and transparency of information.  This is very much in line with Dr Martyn Newman’s values-based approach to ‘emotional capital’.

More effective collaboration is important to the organisations my colleagues and I work with as they aim to introduce a more connected, shared style of leadership.  They are keen to encourage their people to adapt and learn while remaining true to the core mission of the organisation. At one leading mobile communications company, an increased awareness of emotional intelligence has helped leaders to communicate more authentically, which has helped to build more open and productive relationships. This has led to a dramatic increase in engagement, which has had a positive impact on financial results.

How can leaders create more connected organisations?

Shared vision and purpose

When organisations have a clear sense of what they are trying to achieve and a shared understanding of why they exist, there is shared purpose around which people can organise and achieve great things.  Leaders need to provide that clarity, to help people make sense of why they are working. People across multiple generations want to know that what they do at work has value, has meaning and is achieving something of which they can be proud.  This creates the starting point for leaders to be effective and authentic in the way they influence others to behave.

What does a successful shared vision and purpose look like?

  1. We have a shared understanding of why we exist as an organisation
  2. We have a clear sense of what we are trying to achieve as an organisation
  3. Our overall strategy provides consistent parameters for action across all levels of the organisation
  4. A line of sight exists between each person’s goals and the organisation’s strategic goals

Authentic relationships

Leaders who act in a way that is in line with common standards of ethics and who build relationships of trust and respect engender strong commitment among the people they support.  Leaders need to be balanced in their judgement and fair in the decisions they make to deserve respect and build trust.  The relationships between a manager and his or her team are the bedrock of engaging employees and making critical connections work across the organisation.  When these relationships are in place, leaders can give authority to others to take decisions and make things happen.

What do successful authentic relationships look like?

  1. Leaders at all levels build open and trusting relationships with all colleagues
  2. Leaders have strong self-awareness and emotional intelligence
  3. Leaders act, and encourage others to act, on balanced processing of information
  4. Leaders always act in the best interests of the whole organisation

Distributed power

The key to empowerment is the sharing of power across an organisation so that decisions are made closer to the customer and by people who are capable to make them in line with the overall strategy and purpose of the organisation.  This means that people need to be clear about what decisions it is best for them to make, to have good information on which to base those decisions and to understand the implications of their decisions for the rest of the organisation and its wider stakeholders (such as customers or regulators).  In this environment there is tremendous scope for teams to achieve great things.

What does successfully distributed power look like?

  1. Service oriented decisions are taken as close to the customer as possible
  2. Only key strategic decisions are made centrally
  3. Local decisions are based on the best response to local circumstances within the organisation’s overall parameters
  4. Unified management information is available to support joined-up decision making

Collaborative achievement

There has been an increasing emphasis on effective team working in recent years as a better way to achieve great performance than through a more traditional command and control approach.  When teams are empowered to operate and to cooperate with other teams across the processes of work, performance improvements are common.  Great team working is based on the premise of dialogue and mutual influence, where team players provide and take influence from each other depending on the circumstances.  They trust each other to make the right call, and work in a coordinated way based on voluntary commitment. This tends to drive learning and improvement, as well as the ability to adapt to changing conditions.

What does successful collaborative achievement look like?

  1. High performing team working is the norm
  2. There is strong cross functional working and mutual influence across the organisation
  3. Reward structures are based on collective merit more than individualistic performance
  4. Open and purposeful conversations predominate

The importance of learning and development

Learning is a key characteristic of successful organisations that can adapt to changing conditions.  For people in an organisation to feel comfortable to share insight, to take risks and to innovate requires a high degree of emotional safety. It is the leader’s responsibility to provide this safety. In our ever more complex world, we know that one size does not really fit all, and that developing and encouraging people to learn, to experiment and to adapt is the only way to keep customers really loyal.

Daniel Goleman said that, “Emotional intelligence is the capacity for recognising our own feelings and those of others, for motivating ourselves and for managing emotions well in ourselves and in our relationships.” Martyn Newman contends that emotional intelligence can be developed through learning, and many organisations today are finding that evaluating leaders’ emotional intelligence and investing in tailored development is helping to improve collaboration, trust and understanding.


Instead of organisations creating more controls (and the associated bureaucracy) to become more connected, many want to create a more empowered environment and a new level of simplicity. This in turn requires a high degree of trust among people in the organisation – trust that each person and team will play a part in the process, and trust that each person and team will seek what’s best for the whole business based on a shared purpose.  Emotional intelligence is key to building this trust and cutting through complexity.  In my experience, many organisations aspire to building critical connections that work seamlessly, based on goodwill and shared expectations of a successful future.  Simpler, more straightforward, trustworthy and connected companies? More and more, that’s what leaders, employees and customers want to see.

© The HR Director 2014



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